MAC West Division Frontrunner UT Prevails vs. EMU in Extra Innings, 4-3
TOLEDO, OH - Freshman RF Dan Zuchowski's two-run single in the 12th frame propelled Mid-American Conference West Division frontrunner Toledo to a 4-3 triumph against Eastern Michigan on Thursday at Scott Park. With the extra-inning victory, the Rockets maintain their one-game lead in the division and improve to 28-25 overall, 17-8 in the league.
In the third extra inning, the first three UT batters reached base on EMU errors to bring Zuchowski to the plate with a chance to be the hero. The Hamtramck, MI did not disppoint and turned a low offering from the Eagles' (24-27, 14-11 MAC) Paul Schaak, lacing a two-run single through the right side to send the Rockets' bench into a frenzy.
Junior RHP Cody Umbright (1-0), the fourth Toledo hurler of the afternoon, was credited with his first victory of the spring. Umbright retired the only batter he faced in the top of the 12th inning to help the Midnight Blue & Gold get out a second- and third-base jam with two outs.
Sophomore LHP Ryan Wilkinson (7-3) drew the start in today's series opener and was solid, allowing two runs on seven hits with four strikeouts in 6.0 innings in a no-decision.
Senior RHP Tyler Scott and senior RHP Lincoln Rassi also toed the rubber against a talented EMU squad, limiting them to one unearned run on two hits with four punchouts in 5.2 relief frames.
Offensively, the Rockets were limited to five hits with no player collecting a multi-hit effort against four Eastern Michigan hurlers.
UT struck first on a RBI single off the bat of senior CF Ben Hammer (1-for-2, RBI, 3 BB) in the third inning. With one out in the frame, junior 3B Wes White (0-for-4, RS) drew a walk to give the Rockets their first baserunner of the contest. Following another free pass and a ground out, Hammer delivered a seeing-eye single through the right side to lift the home team the early advantage.
Toledo's lead did not last long though, as EMU evened the score at 1-1 in the fourth frame on a two-out, solo home run by Matt Hitt.
The Eagles then captured their first lead of the contest on a RBI single by Lee Longo in the sixth inning. EMU pounded out three hits and drew an intentional walk from Wilkinson to grab the advantage. The damage could have been a lot worse for the Rockets, though, but freshman LF Anthony Smith gunned down a runner at the plate to limit the visitors to one run.
Eastern Michigan threatened to add an insurance tally in the top of the ninth inning and put a runner on third base with two outs. Fortunately for Toledo, reliever Scott forced a foul ball out to keep it a one-run difference.
The Rockets fed off that momentum and forced extra frames as Smith was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded to bring home the game-tying run against EMU's Jordan Glover in the bottom of the ninth. UT knotted the score despite not collecting a hit in the frame, utilizing a pair of walks & two hit by pitches. The home team also had two golden opportunities to win the game later in the inning as they still had the bases juiced with only one out, but Glover recorded two quick outs to prolong the contest.
In the first extra inning, Toledo put a runner on second base with second outs, before the Eagles' Ben Dartnell recorded a strikeout to extend the series opener into the 11th.
Following an uneventful 11th frame, EMU retook the lead in the top of of 12th frame on a sacrfice fly off the bat of Tucker Rubino against UT's Rassi, before the MAC West Division leaders responded with a pair of tallies to clinch the first game in the weekend series.
Dartnell (1-1) was tagged with the setback, yielding two unearned runs on just one hit with two walks and two strikeouts in 2.0 innings of relief.
The visitors also received an outstanding starting pitching effort from RHP Neil Butara, who gave up one run on three hits with five punchouts in 7.0 frames in a no-decision.
Brent Ohrman (2-for-5) and Longo (2-for-4, RBI) paced the Eastern Michigan offense with a game-high two hits each.
The Rockets and Eagles will continue their three-game set tomorrow with a 3:05 p.m. from the corner of Parkside Blvd. and Hill Ave. Senior RHP Matt Kuna (6-1, 2.78 ERA, 64.2 IP, 58 H, 25 R, 20 ER, 14 BB, 44 K) is slated to start for UT, while EMU will send RHP Steve Weber (7-3, 5.42 ERA, 79.2 IP, 101 H, 57 R, 48 ER, 20 BB, 53 K) to the hill.
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